CHANGING MY VOTE

Parking. Running a close second to the detestable Donald in municipal conversation. Wednesday night a meeting in the local elementary school to discuss Residential Permit Parking brought out a sizable segment of the neighborhood. For the innocent: RPP means you pay over a hundred plus bucks per year to get a sticker for your bumper that means you won’t get a ticket for parking if your stay in the RPP area is longer than two hours. A lot of neighborhoods have it already. Bernal, our neighborhood, and specifically Mirabel Ave. where I live have an acute parking problem. We don’t have street cleaning so folks “dump” their cars for weeks at a time while they are out of town or commute elsewhere. Occasionally you see a Warning Sign on these vehicles windscreen; there’s a BMW in front of my house at this moment sporting one. The warning is that something will occur within 48 hours if the car is not moved, but I’ve rarely seen a ticket applied alongside.

Given this reality, neighbors worked to canvass the neighborhood’s adjacent streets to achieve the requisite 51% yes vote in a contiguous area a mile in length in order to meet the requirements for RPP. The Municipal Transit Agency (MTA) did their own surveys to determine whether a requisite percentage of parked cars were from out of the neighborhood. The numbers were reached, the i’s dotted. So there at Flynn Elementary was the map projected on the screen, the RPP blue streets, Mirabel right at the heart of it, in the middle of a broader area that included all of northwest Bernal. It was all accomplished according to the rules with a lot of effort put forth by neighbors to contact as many households as possible. I voted yes.

Wednesday night’s meeting was a manifestation of unintended consequences. First the meeting itself, which was advertised as a chance to re-vote, since two stipulations were added after the neighborhood poll: 1) the applicable hours would be from 8 am to 6 pm, not 8 to 8 as previously proposed, and 2) no address/household would get more than 2 permits (4 was the number before.) These are not sticking points; in fact, they are changes which I, and I would wager, most others approve of. But if your street is not included in the proposed RPP zone, what would a changed vote signify? Nothing. Both pro RPP and con RPP made that point. I’d guess at least half of the people in the room were outside the zone and spoke against RPP. With one or two exceptions, they were concerned not with these proposed changes but with the fact that a vote was not offered them in the first place.

Now it’s legitimate to say that those non-affiliated streets in Northwest Bernal could have done what our little enclave did, go door to door and get signatures. Maybe their particular blocks didn’t feel same acute need as did our blue-street blocks. But what is clear, those folks who are outside the RPP are going to get screwed by this new reality, and they know it. If you are on the fringe of the zone and you need to park in the daytime, forget it, or if you are surrounded by RPP streets and yours is not included, well, you can imagine. You’ll easier find a unicorn than a spot.

I’m not a gung-ho fan of RPP; it smacks of nimby-ism and privilege, but hey this is present day San Francisco, deluged by Uber and cement trucks and google buses and SUVs that get longer and blacker and drive faster. And everybody has a car. Or two. I would vote aye again if all the streets that were marked out as part of the Northwest Bernal Area were included, an area that makes geographical sense, bounded by Cesar Chavez on the north, Mission on the west, the hill on the north, and Alabama on the east (the street, not the state.) The people on streets not yet part of the zone must have a real chance to be included, with time to debate their choice. Sure, it would delay implementation for some time, but it’s worth the wait. The arbitrary deadline the MTA gives for this new vote (May 17) is as nonsensical as the premise of Wednesday night’s meeting. The MTA makes its case that the RPP area is determined street by street, that this is the democratic way. It may sound good in theory, but the actual consequence is what we saw at Flynn Elementary; contention, anger, misunderstanding. If you can convince me that’s an overall improvement in neighborhood quality of life, pitting neighbor against neighbor, “our” street against “theirs”, you might also persuade me that we don’t have an ass in the White House. In the meantime I’m changing my vote to No.

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4 responses to “CHANGING MY VOTE

  1. Well put. Thank you for your concern.

  2. I take your point and applaud your desire not to pit neighbor against neighbor. The meeting was not a pretty sight nor an example of people trained in non-violent communication. I do wonder though if what we saw was more a reflection of garage-owner against not garage-owner rather then simply neighbor against neighbor.
    It’s not quite correct to say (about people outside the “blue zone”) that “a vote was not offered to them in the first place.” Going online to vote for or against your street joining the City’s designated “Northwest Bernal RPP Pilot” has been an option since the beginning of this effort.
    The problem here was the City’s overestimating what it would take to inform people that they had this option. At first they told the original parking committee (Mirabel, Precita, etc.) that we probably wouldn’t even have to go door to door because everything was going to be computerized. The City would send out postcards and the votes would come pouring in.
    We lost months of organizing time waiting for that to happen and eventually realized that the postcards fell way short of getting out the vote. Knocking on doors, finding people home, talking to them, and actually getting signatures from those in favor was the only way we’d get the required minimum of 51%.
    I guess you could say that, in the same way that our country’s democracy is flawed by voter laws making it hard for people to vote in many places, this process was “undemocratic”. Our GOTV campaign was concentrated in the area where residents were organized to talk to people and put forward their solution to this worsening parking problem. Toward the end of the signature gathering, when we had met the minimum one-mile frontage required, there actually were a few adjacent block and streets that became aware of how the new zone would impact them. At that point, they organized to get people on their block to vote and were added to the “blue zone”.
    Perhaps your idea to allow more time for this to happen (beyond May 17) is a good one. But I’m leaving my vote as Yes–even though, through a stroke of luck and love and a kind neighbor, my car currently parks in a garage! I want what you want you want and am hoping that the meeting will lead to our neighbors on adjacent blocks getting out the word that they can vote to be included in the new RPP zone and will.
    And so goes life in the Big City. . . 🙂

  3. DEBORAH PORTER

    Anita says it pretty well…

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